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7-state rally highlights evangelism, healthy churches

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–More than 700 people from seven states were challenged to work together in evangelism and building healthy churches during the North Central States Rally Jan. 10-12 in Indianapolis.

Plenary sessions, in addition to worship, testimonies and prayer, featured such speakers as Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board; Gary Frost, executive director of the Metro New York Baptist Association; Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention; Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas; and Thomas Hammonds, NAMB’s director of personal and mass evangelism.

Reccord, noting that only three countries -– China, India and Indonesia -– have more non-believers than the United States –- urged leaders from the various states to focus on the challenges of sharing Christ, sacrificial giving to missions endeavors, disaster relief and other key ministries through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel of support for state, national and international missions and ministries.

Reccord also called for the region’s Baptists to diversify in leadership to reflect their communities and to send out their best to reach the lost.

Forty-one breakout sessions were led by pastors, directors of missions, state convention workers, LifeWay Christian Resources consultants and other denominational leaders during the rally, which had as its theme “Empowering Kingdom Growth through T.E.A.M.S” (Together, Evangelizing, Assessing, Mentoring and Starting and Strengthening Churches).

Among the topics for the breakout sessions were “Building Bible Study into the DNA of a New Church,” “The Acts 1:8 Challenge,” “Simple Methods for Sharing Jesus,” “Prayer for Spiritual Awakening” and “Engaging the Emerging Generations.”

The North Central States Rally began in 1961 as a prayer meeting with four state missions directors. In 1969, the state executive directors were added as participants in the prayer meeting and its scope was broadened to include strategies for starting new churches. Other nearby states subsequently joined in the effort.

In 1977, the seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota/Wisconsin and Ohio) in partnership with the North American Mission Board (then Home Mission Board) set a goal of doubling the number of churches in the region.

The rally, now co-sponsored by the various states, NAMB, Woman’s Missionary Union and Lifeway, continues to be held every three years with an ongoing focus on reaching people for Christ through establishing and building healthy congregations.

Jimmy Barrentine, executive director for the Baptist Convention of Iowa, is the current president of the North Central States Fellowship.
Based on reporting by Dennis Dawson, editor of the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

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